1. He became an American success almost overnight.
When Boulud opened his first restaurant, Daniel, it took almost no time at all for people in the know to sit up and take notice. In the immediate aftermath of Daniel’s inauguration, The New York Times gave the restaurant a glowing four-star review, Bon Appétit named Boulud Chef of the Year and The International Herald Tribune declared that this brand-new French restaurant in the Upper East Side was among the ten best restaurants—not in New York, not in America, but the entire planet.
2. He was already a huge success before he was a restaurateur.
Even before Daniel first opened its doors in 1993, Boulud had already well established himself as a bright and shining star in the New York City culinary constellation. He got his start in America operating lounges in some of New York's finest hotels. The first was the Polo Lounge (now Polo Bar) at the Westbury Hotel, after which he then opened Le Regence, the fabulously elegant French restaurant at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in New York. Fresh off his astounding success there, he spent the next six years amazing the critics as the Executive Chef at Le Cirque, to which he brought national fame as he constructed a reputation for himself.
3. His earlier successes in France were as a teenager.
Before arriving on American shores, Boulud enjoyed his first success when he entered the French competition for Best Culinary Apprentice. It was one of the few times in his career that he did not find total victory, but he did manage to finish among the finalists—at the age of 15.
4. His wife is half his age.
In 2013 Boulud married girlfriend Katherine Gage, when he was 58 and she was 30. While a culinary student in Florida, she found employment at Cafè Boulud Palm Beach to further her appreciation of French cuisine. She later moved to New York, met the superstar chef and took a position in Restaurant Daniel's catering division. After five years working for him, she moved on from the restaurant world and is now a foodie writer and blogger who runs the website Miel Et Lavande. According to Chef Daniel, Katherine “keeps me young.”
5. His first “best” meal ever was eaten without utensils.
In 1982, as Boulud made his away around the best and most unique restaurants in the Big Apple, he discovered the Quilted Giraffe on Second Avenue, well known for its signature Beggar's Purse with caviar topping. Instead of being served on a plate, the dish was brought to the table on a pedestal styled as a Roman column, and instead of using fork or spoon, Boulud had to eat the creped purse using only his mouth, a messy endeavor that was intentional and hilarious.
6. His restaurants cook hundreds of free meals for the elderly each month.
Chef Boulud is co-president of a group called Citymeals on Wheels and established the Chefs Deliver Initiative in early 2014. In cooperation with more than two dozen of New York's most esteemed chefs, the Chefs Deliver Initiative has created thousands of mouthwatering meals of the highest quality for the homebound elderly of New York City. They don't simply prepare the meals, they also deliver them in person and witness the enjoyment of people who have very likely never tasted such fare as this before. All six of Boulud's New York restaurants are involved.
7. His French restaurants aren't 100% French.
And that's just the way he likes it. Few types of cuisine are as self-aware and traditional as French, and even though Boulud trained under some of the very best French chefs, he has been an American for over thirty years. Boulud feels that his restaurants are not 'typical' French, as he has enthusiastically absorbed the character, trademark speed and culinary uniqueness of his adopted city, and this shows in his menus. This penchant for integrating local atmosphere into his personalized style of French cuisine has continued as he has opened locations in Boston, Montreal and elsewhere. The different climates, attitudes and expectations have led to an adaptability that defines his restaurants almost as well as the quality of their food and the star power of their founder.
8. He’s a successful TV show host
Boulud hosts After Hours With Daniel, a late night show in which the chef gets together with other chefs after hours as they chat about the work, the people, and share with each other their fondest food desires (which the other chefs may then prepare for them. Each season of the series takes place in a different city and features stars in the local culinary scene. Boulud has also been a guest judge on several television shows such as Top Chef Canada and Anna & Kristina's Grocery Bag, which put his cookbook recipes to the test.
9. He keeps things simple at home.
When cooking for himself at home, Boulud loves to create French one-pot meals. As you might expect, given his timbre and training, these meals, even in their simplicity, are made with premium ingredients and proper preparation. This thoroughly French chef loves his wines, but he’s developed a very strong love for single malt whiskey, and this is what you'll find in his glass when it comes time to put his feet up and let loose. He has also been involved in a collaboration in the creation of a single-malt whiskey with Dalmore.
10. He ended up in New York because of a personality clash.
Chef Boulud got his start in Washington DC, as the private chef for Count Roland de Kergorlay of the European Commission based there. When he first met Chef Francis Layrle, the general manager at the French Embassy, there was immediate dislike. According to Boulud, “The minute I met the general manager, I hated him. And I don’t think he cared about me either. I wanted to be a sous chef there, and he barely said hello to me at the first meeting. He treated me, like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I’m like, ‘Okay, thank you very much. This is it. I’m not staying with you here.’” With the help of his mentor, Jean-Louis Palladin, Boulud found himself as the executive sous chef at the Polo Lounge in New York's Westbury Hotel, the launching pad to his stellar career as one of the most accomplished restauranteurs in the entire world. From there, the rest is history.